While the official abortion figures for the State of Ohio compiled by the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) will not be available until the fall, information obtained by Greater Columbus Right to Life suggests that Ohio abortions increased by at least two percent in 2020 when compared to the 2019 Ohio Abortion Statistics report from ODH.
This conclusion was reached after reading a study  published in the May 2020 edition of Contraception looking at “barriers” to expansion of medication and telemedicine abortions in Ohio, Kentucky, and West Virginia during the pandemic. The authors looked at related state and federal laws and policies (such as the FDA label that requires in-person dispensing of the abortion pill and the Ohio law that requires the label be followed), executive actions during the pandemic (such as Ohio’s order to postpone non-emergency medical procedures, including surgical abortions), and data voluntarily reported each month by 14 abortion clinics in Ohio, West Virginia, and Kentucky between December of 2019 and December of 2020. The study authors note that data collection methodology was approved by both the OSU and Cincinnati University Institutional Review Boards. They also noted that 14 of the 16 clinics offering medication abortion were included in the study. Locations that did not supply data were not included, nor was facility-specific data supplied.
We compared the 2020 monthly abortion figures provided in the article to abortion data published by ODH for 2019 and found that the total number of abortions in Ohio increased by at least 383 (1.9%) and the number of medication abortions in Ohio increased by at least 602 (7.7%) in 2020. Notably, these conclusions are based on the belief that abortion providers correctly reported their figures to the researchers and come with the caveat that the study will most likely be lower than the official state figures published by ODH in the fall; they probably do not include every location that may be providing surgical or medical abortions in Ohio.
The provided figures cannot tell us if the increase in abortions is directly attributable to COVID. From our Sidewalk Counseling program, we know that there can be fluctuations by months; some months are just busier than others. However, April and May of 2020 showed sharp increases in the numbers of total abortions when compared to other months: 1919 in April and 1826 in May compared to 1610 in February and 1677 in June. April particularly showed a steep increase in the percentage of abortions that were committed by medication: 72% compared to 34% in March and 39% in June. It is also notable that the only year-to-year monthly comparisons available were in December of 2019 (pre-pandemic) and December of 2020. There were 1457 abortions reported by surveyed clinics in December of 2019 and 1714 in 2020. The study authors did conclude that the Executive Order banning elective medical procedures were most likely responsible for the sharp increase in medication abortions in April. A lawsuit filed against the state earlier this year pointed out that the state EO was enforced on abortion clinics, with ODH sending inspectors until stopped by litigation.
We do not usually know the reasons abortions increase, but we do know that helping women to find empowering and life-affirming resources, encouraging them to seek healing for a past abortion, and bringing the power of prayer to the sidewalk has demonstrably lowered the abortion rate here and across the country. Want to get involved? Consider joining our sidewalk prayer team.
 K. Mello et al., Federal, state, and institutional barriers to the expansion of medication and telemedicine abortion services in Ohio, Kentucky, and West Virginia during the COVID-19 pandemic, Contraception, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.contraception. 2021.04.020